DEATHS in the construction industry jumped by 8 per cent last year, union Ucatt said yesterday exposing the serious dangers of the government’s health and safety cuts.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published figures earlier this week which suggested that the total number of deaths at work decreased in the period 2013-2014 — down to 133 from 150 the previous year.
But the construction industry, traditionally one of the most dangerous sectors, saw an increase in fatalities with 42 deaths as opposed to 39 the previous year.
Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “The rise in fatalities should send a chill through the industry and it corresponds with a very modest upturn in construction. All the previous evidence shows that as the industry gets busier deaths and accidents increase. These dangers are being exacerbated by the massive cuts that the government has made to the HSE’s budget and its continued attack on safety laws and regulations.”
The overall decrease was hailed by Minister of State for Health and Safety Mike Penning as a sign that workplaces were “getting safer.”
“The Health and Safety Executive does an excellent job in making sure each and every one of us can go out to do an honest day’s work in the knowledge that our safety is being taken seriously,” he said.
But campaign group Hazards accused the HSE of playing “fast and loose” with the figures.
Hazards spokeswoman Hilda Palmer welcomed the decrease but pointed out that the HSE figures did not take into account those who died from occupational illness such as work-related cancers and stress.
The figure also excluded those workers killed in the air, at sea and on the roads.
“Just because the HSE and government don’t count them, it doesn’t mean workers are not being killed at work and by work,” she said.
“Due to Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations changes and banning proactive inspections in ‘low-risk’ workplaces, HSE is recording far less information about how work is hurting workers and on illnesses and non-fatal injuries it is now impossible to compare year on year.
“Reports from workplaces show a very different, more alarming picture to that painted by Penning. So three cheers for fewer HSE recorded deaths but let’s have the full picture and no rosy tinted, false reassurance.”